Part Three: Understanding EndometriosisDecember 2018
Written by Jessica Worth, Nutritionist, Sydney, Mona Vale
Endometriosis is finally getting the airtime it needs in media. So many women have been suffering in silence for many years, with many Doctors (not all, I am generalising) brushing their pain off as period pain.
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis occurs when the endometrium lining is found outside of the womb. The tissue grows throughout the menstrual cycle just like it does in the womb, and shedding as blood when no egg is implanted (often this blood cannot exit the body). The best way to describe endometriosis is like rust within the body. This “rust” starts small and slowly spreads. It is most commonly found in the pelvis, but there have been many cases with endo showing up throughout the body.
Endometriosis affects many women from the onset of menstruation and generally subsides after menopause, endo is only diagnosed is through laparoscopy. Some women have no symptoms and some have severe pain, there is no known singular cause and treatment is multi-faceted.
As a nutritionist, when I am working with a client we discuss in depth their reproductive health. I am looking for clues to see how healthy their reproductive cycle is. Some of the symptoms I see in women who suffer endometriosis include:
– chronic pelvic pain
– pain during sex
– heavy, painful periods
– iron deficiency
– menstrual blood clots (often large)
– premenstrual spotting
– abdominal bloating
– chronic fatigue
– depression and anxiety
– premenstrual vaginal thrush
How nutrition helps Endometriosis
Nutrition is one arm in the treatment of endometriosis. It is important to understand that it is not a cure, nutrition supports your body to manage the condition and works to not exacerbate it. As a nutritionist, I look as endo as an inflammatory condition.
Firstly, you must remove all exogenous oestrogens, with one of the biggest sources being plastic. If you needed a reason to go plastic free this is it. Plastic leaches chemicals into our food and drink. A compound in plastic mimics oestrogen the body and exacerbates the condition. So stop drinking from a plastic water bottle, don’t heat food in plastic containers, avoid canned foods and try to cook fresh wherever possible. The best approach is to minimise your exposure.
Secondly, you need to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. So many people are not meeting the governments guidelines of 5 and 2. As a nutritionist I want you to be meeting that as a minimum; ideally at least 3 vegetables per meal. And for the record fruit is not the devil, yes it has sugar, but an apple vs chocolate is so very different nutritionally. Fruit and vegetables contain fibre, which helps to excrete excess oestrogen.
Increase anti-inflammatory foods. We want to reduce the inflammation that endo creates, lots of oily fish (salmon, sardines, mackeral), flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, hemp seeds, tumeric, ginger.
Decrease pro-inflammatory foods. Cut alcohol. Remove deep fried and trans fat foods. Reduce highly refined foods and sugars. These are all inflammatory for the body and exacerbate the condition.
Lastly, work on your gut health and detoxification pathways. Eat fermented foods to support bowel colonisation, feed the bacteria with fibre from fruits and vegetables. Brassica vegetables support detoxification, this includes foods such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussel sprouts.
Where to start?
If you are concerned you may have undiagnosed endometriosis, speak to your doctor. Express your concerns, press for tests, if you feel like you are not being listened to, find another Doctor. Seek out the support of a natural medicine practitioner (like me!) and start working on nourishing your body. For more information check out Endometriosis Australia.
It can be managed, you can naturally conceive and your symptoms will ease.
Until next time… x
Jessica Worth is a nutritionist who works with women to help them with their hormonal conditions. She understands the physical and emotional toll these conditions places on the body and the mind. If you’d like help to address your hormonal conditions, contact Jess and you can start working together. Consultations are available face-to-face and virtual.